It’s late March and both my husband and I feel that it’s time to be off to St. Petersburg. There’s just something about the temperature or the light this time of year that brings back that feeling, part anticipation, part panic, that is part of the travel portion of the process. Both of our adoptions took place in the Spring.
Russia may be unique in requiring two trips for an adoption. On the first trip you meet the child and accept the referral. The second trip is for the actual adoption court date and resulting paperwork.
Since becoming parents and having much of our own travel restricted by the presence of small children, we have become big fans of The Amazing Race. For those who haven’t seen the show, a bunch of two-person teams run frantically through airports to secure flights to their destinations, and upon arriving, run frantically through a foreign country trying to complete tasks before heading frantically back to the airport for the next leg of the race. All the while they bicker with each other, try to get directions from people speaking a completely different language, absorb some culture in a very short time frame, and occasionally eat really strange food.
Our first trip to Russia was a lot like that.
We knew, before we ever left Logan Airport, that we were going to miss our connecting flight in Paris. Why we didn’t attend to the issue in Boston is anybody’s guess, but we thought perhaps they could find a different flight from Paris more easily in Paris (yes, I know this is all computerized, I had other things on my mind at the time). At least I was able to sleep on the flight across the Atlantic. I was unable to sleep on the flight to Rome six months earlier and it wrecked me for three days. When we arrived in Paris, I was awake and ready to put together Plan B.
We were sent to the Air France transfer desk and we had a bit of trouble finding it. Once there, the woman behind the counter, listened to our plight and said. “We will put you up in a hotel here in Paris and book you on tomorrow’s flight.
Panic. “But, we have an appointment to meet a two year old boy for an adoption on Monday. We have to be there!”
“St. Petersburg is not a major city, we do not go there more than once a day.”
“Do you have access to other airlines, can you find us another flight? We really have to be there.”
“Well, you should always allow two days when travelling to Europe.”
“I thought we just did.”
I handled all of this in the most businesslike manner I could muster. I had no idea what would happen if we couldn’t get a flight, so it was important to be polite even if the woman behind the counter was being rather rude. I was very disappointed that this first encounter in France was turning out to be so -- so stereotypical. My husband stood there calmly, not saying a word. He told me later that he was about to lose it, but I had no idea.
“Alors!” Madame frowned at her computer screen. Tap tap tap, on the keyboard. “Alors!” Tap tap tap, “Alors!”
“Alors! Okay, I will put you on a flight to Moscow, and from there you can get a connecting flight on Aeroflot to St. Petersburg.
I had heard about Aeroflot, jokes about milk crates for seats and wondering if the plane was going to make it to its destination. I was nervous, but desperate. “We’ll take it!”
That settled, we headed over to the new gate to await our flight to Moscow. I learned how to use a European credit card phone to call our facilitator in the States about our change in plans. I think that call might have cost me $10.
Ah, but our adventures were far from over, as you’ll see in upcoming posts. For now I will just say that when someone offers you an overnight stay at a Paris hotel, TAKE IT!!!